Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Patrick McMahon
50th Space Wing Command Chief
There is no I in team, but there is one in Airman! This concept is not focused on a self-centered attitude of me first, but is in fact a mindset that acts as a guide and reminder that every Airman has value, delivers leadership and brings something to the fight.
Several years ago the United States Army touted the motto of an Army of One. From a marketing perspective it may not have had a long shelf life, but the intent was rock-solid. Our Air Force team is made up of individual Airmen who, through passion, teamwork and synergy, execute amazing combat effects. The profession of arms is a team sport and every Airman contributes to the success of the team.
Leadership traits of Airmen of all ranks start in the same location each and every morning, in the mirror. Understanding you, recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and identifying motivating factors enable every Airman to be better prepared as leaders. Each and every one of our Airmen has value and delivers essential leadership. The difference between the levels of leadership is simply a matter of degrees. A new Airman’s leadership focus might be on ensuring they are squared-away and preparing themselves to excel in their functional community and integrate into their organization. While seasoned leaders leverage experience and influence to execute their earned responsibility and authority.
An Airman of One philosophy is predicated on positive energy and is focused on the quality of the mission. One Airman can make all the difference. However, at times individual acts can have detrimental effects. When we choose selective rationalization to execute the mission, enforce standards or follow guidance we jeopardize our foundational success. Through time, the selective enforcement of standards can degrade a culture of professionalism.
A simple analogy is a crack on a windshield. One infraction may not seem significant or overly problematic. You can think of this as one tiny pebble striking your windshield as you head down the highway. If you had hundreds or thousands of pebbles striking the windshield at the same time you would get an entirely different result. The same is true for Airmen who don’t comply and enforce all of the standards all of the time.
Discipline is the bedrock of any military organization. It is in our core values: Integrity, Service and Excellence along with our military ethics: the owing, ordering and oughting that propel us to reach enduring success as professional Airmen.
I had the opportunity to witness an awesome example of stellar professionalism during the command chief orientation at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, last fall. We had the good fortune of spending time with basic military trainees during the visit. On one particular afternoon we watched trainees prepare for a training event. Prior to the start, their military training instructor called them together for some guidance. The trainees slowly started to chant, “character, pride, excellence,” which flowed to a faster paced, “character, pride, excellence,” and finally a pride-filled crescendo of, “Character! Pride! Excellence!” Then the 50 fully-focused and motivated trainees conquered a challenging confidence course. Watching the trainees display character and wingmen spirit while executing professional pride on their journey to earn the distinction of Airman and displaying the excellence required to execute an objective was inspirational leadership at its finest. It provided a memorable leadership example from those who had not yet even earned the right to call themselves Airmen.
It goes to show that we all can learn a great deal from those individuals who unite together as a team as they strive to earn that right to be called an Airman in the United States Air Force. The positive impact of one can be impressive and enduring. There may not be an I in team but I am truly proud to say I am an American Airman, Wingman, Leader, Warrior!